A Tale of Two Systems

Issued by Jane Cowley, MPL
Shadow MEC for Health

How public private partnerships could lift EC out of the clutches of Covid-19

The private sector can build a fully equipped field hospital with 1450 beds in just seven weeks. The public health department has yet to lay a single brick in order to build much needed district field hospitals despite planning them for three months.

This is a spectacular failure on the part of the state and highlights the need for public private partnerships.

It is quite clear that the private sector, unencumbered by the need for backroom deals and bureaucratic bungling has a much greater capacity to deliver. What we need is a radical new approach from government to get the job done.

On a recent oversight visit to the newly opened Rev Dr Elizabeth Mamisa Chabula-Nxiweni Field Hospital, built by Volkswagen South Africa, my colleague Cllr Leander Kruger and I were impressed with the quality of workmanship and excellent layout of the facility. Extensions to increase capacity are already underway.

The only challenges the facility could face are staff and PPE shortages. These are, of course, provided by the state.

In stark contrast, the field hospitals that the Department of Health has been planning for the past three months have not materialised. Until two weeks ago, the department assured the province that the tender process was complete, building would commence on 1 July and would be completed by the 31st of October.

The Democratic Alliance has consistently stated that this will be too late to bring any relief in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic.

Now, with the deadline to begin construction missed, Premier Oscar Mabuyane has changed government’s tune, stating that they would now be identifying libraries and museums to convert into field hospitals.

This raises two major concerns: firstly, how much budget has been wasted to date on tender processes and planning which have come to nothing; and secondly, how will these facilities ever be ready in time to address the infection peak?

The Eastern Cape government has squandered the precious time bought through one of the strictest lockdowns in the world, while the private sector, which has had to bear the brunt of the economic fallout from government’s policies, has once again risen to the challenge and quietly went about getting the job done.

I will once again write to the Premier and request that he seriously consider appointing more effective leadership in the Department of Health, and that he further consider collaboration with the private sector as a viable and sustainable means of improving healthcare capability in the province.

The lives of our citizens are at stake – smart decisions must overrule political power-mongering. If government is serious about improving healthcare delivery to citizens, they must establish collaborative projects with the private sector.